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Introducing Kloboucká Lesní’s HQ: using Mass Timber and Solar to eliminate carbon in buildings

klouboucka lesni headquarters mjolk architects 32 min
klouboucka lesni headquarters mjolk architects 32 min

Nestled within the natural landscape of Brumov-Bylnice in the Czech Republic, the Kloboucká Lesní’s new 1,034sqm headquarters stands as an elongated structure featuring a distinctive mass timber shell. Kloboucká Lesní – a prominent European integrated forest management company – is responsible for managing sustainable forests, harvesting and manufacturing glue-laminated timber beams (mass timber). Designed by Mjölk architekti, the project, showcased in designboom and Dezeen earlier this month, boasts an oversized timber gable constructed from certified spruce-glulam sourced from the companies nearby forests.

Kloboucká Lesní is an integrated forest management company. Their new office is located just one hundred metres away from one of their forests under management. In addition, they are a fully certified PEFC company meaning that their full forest management, haulage and manufacturing operations are subject to third party certification.
Design Intent

The primary objective of the project was to create a functional, visually appealing building that showcases the beauty and versatility of Kloboucká Lesní’s KVH-BSH (Glulam Beams).

According to Mjölk architekti:

“We proposed a place for creative work, research, and innovation. The main load-bearing structure forms a modular shell for the building, leaving the interior space free and adjustable, including contingencies for unexpected growth. The building design shows the way for future construction projects. Environmentally responsible, simple and modest, but equipped with cutting-edge technology – and placed in a natural setting surrounded by vegetation and water.”

From Crade to Cradle: Kloboucká Lesní’s commitment to Sustainability

Kloboucká Lesní is fully certified to PEFC standards, ensuring that their total forest production process – from forest management, to haulage, manufacture, and distribution – adheres to a total chain of custody process.

The load-bearing structure is made exclusively from timber produced on-site in the Kloboucká Lesní production hall, located just a few hundred meters from the building. The project utilised glued laminated timber for the building frame, which is a flagship product in the company’s portfolio.

“We wanted the new building to be made from local materials and we wanted to know how far we could go with it in terms of design and, more importantly, in terms of construction,” Mjölk Architekti architect Filip Cerha told Dezeen earlier this month.

“The result then is the monumentality of the gable, which gives us a beautiful space of a covered terrace planted with pots of greenery, but above all refers to the magnificence of the possibility of using wood in buildings that can help to build sustainably.”

Sustainability underpins all of Kloboucká Lesní’s activities. Visit their website to learn more about their nursery and how they take care of their forest. (Photo credit: BoysPlayNice)

Indeed, all trees harvested for the project have been replanted, emphasising the commitment by Kloboucka Lesni to a fully circular economy.

A traditional modular shell meets a modern, simple interior

The construction features a glued laminated timber frame, a concrete core, and steel bracing, whilst various types of façade cladding fill each frame span according to the interior program and layout. The modular timber structure offers significant adaptability for future functional changes.

Careful consideration was given to the colour and grain of the wood when selecting the best lumber and the ideal forest for felling. According to Mjölk architekti:

“The Partitions give the interior an open feel. All the glazed walls and the bio-board cladding have sliding bearings in relation to the movement of the timber building.”

The load-bearing structure runs through the entire building, rhythmically dividing the interiors where contemporary design elements contrast nicely with the traditional gable roof exterior. Inside, employee wellbeing and simplicity are prioritized.

At ground level, a series of covered outdoor terraces intersperse the building, encouraging social activities and relaxation. The rooftop features an open space covered by a sophisticated roof with a solar power plant. Where sunlight cannot reach, photovoltaic panels are replaced by glass.

Combining GLT with Solar: The ultimate low embodied carbon building

According to a recent report by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, the building and construction industry is responsible for a widening gap between climate performance and the 2050 decarbonization pathway.

Completely off-gird: The project combines glulam, solar panels and glazing to generate enough energy storage to run the company’s total energy needs. (Photo credit: BoysPlayNice).

To address this, the project’s combination of glulam, solar panels and glazing ensures that the building has enough energy storage to meet its total production needs – with surplus energy storied in 72 Kw batteries, the building generates enough excess energy to power the company’s total product needs.

In addition, Rainwater runoff from the roof is collected in open ponds and utilized for irrigation and cooling during the summer months. The water surface also helps reflect diffused daylight, bringing lighter deeper into the building. The primary source of heating for the building and the surrounding area is a central boiler house, using biomass from wood chips produced on-site as the main fuel.

A building designed for the future in mind

The project is designed with the future in mind, as it seeks to set the direction for sustainable construction practices.

As Filip Cerha notes, “the building is designed to set the direction for the future, taking into account ecological considerations, simplicity, and frugality combined with the latest technologies.”

It’s focus on environmental solutions, including the use of low embodied carbon materials, solar panels, and rainwater collection, makes it a model for future construction projects seeking to address climate change challenges and promote sustainability. As the building and construction industry continues to grapple with high embodied carbon, this project serves as an inspiration for the construction of beautiful and functional buildings using low embodied materials.

Wood Central: growing the industry and the market with creative, authoritative messages

Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media on all digital platforms. (Photo Credit: Wood Central)
Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media on all digital platforms. (Photo Credit: Wood Central)

You have arrived at Wood Central. Welcome.

Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media on all digital platforms.

Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber and fibre.

Our mission is to positively influence specifiers and consumers of timber-based products, using media to grow the market for forest products and share the stories of ‘the ultimate renewable’ – for the industry by the industry.

We believe that by creating a platform which connects people, ideas, and businesses together we can positively shape the future of Australian forest-products now and into the future.

Growing the market for timber through story telling:

Our core business is industry content. Wood Central delivers by using the best journalists and correspondents who have covered the industry for decades, providing authoritative news and comment through a wide reach of editorial, features, events, and education.

Our content is both digital and interactive using new media streams (including social media, podcasting and video) to connect to a growing audience of specifiers and consumers now connecting with wood.  

We strive to provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for our audience through the delivery of informative, consistent, and engaging content.

Our audience is the total market for timber and fibre-based products. It represents the Australian forest products industry – and consumers of timber, paper and wood-based products.

The forest products industry is one of the largest building material providers in Australia with more than 80% house framing using timber-based frames and trusses.

Our products: advertising, promotion, events and education:

Every great business has products that solve problems. In the world of timber, our mission is to offer products that help businesses connect with consumers.

Through display advertising, content, digital marketing and interactive events and education, Wood Central provides an unrivalled platform to promote a business, a product, or a service to the industry.

Quite simply, nothing else exists that is as targeted, trusted and effective as Wood Central.

Display advertising – brand awareness, lead generation:

Advertising is an effective way to build, define, articulate and manage your brand.

It is a defining instrument to ensure your customers and stakeholders have a clear and informed understanding of your product or the service offered.

Display advertising provides an effective channel to generate qualified leads into a sales funnel.

We work with our partners to ensure your business is speaking with our audience in the most effective and meaningful way to ensure that brand awareness and lead generation are maximised.

Content and marketing:

With the rise and proliferation of social media, both in our personal and professional lives, content and its accessibility is now the foundation of how we make decisions.

Whether it is through blog posts, news articles, video, TV or comments, the way we engage, perceive and trust brands is now anchored by content.

We work with our partners to help engage our community in a meaningful way that contributes to the conversation and education of our industry.

Events using expertise to build lasting relationships:

Combining innovative ideas, need-to-know industry information, expert speakers and interactive formats, Wood Central can provide attendees with the information and inspiration that they need to drive the consumption of timber and paper-based products – even further.

JASON ROSS, Publisher

Jason is an experienced sustainability, marketing and communication professional. Drawing on experience as a senior manager and director in a multi-national business ($400m+ turnover), Jason draws on comprehensive experience overseeing project management teams, using advanced project management skills to secure major opportunities by tender submission or negotiation.

Jason has a passion for green buildings. As a former Green Star Accredited Professional (GSAP), he has been an active member of the Queensland GBCA industry committee and has advised the Queensland State Government on environmental protection, heritage, housing and public works.

From 2018 until 2022 Jason managed the Responsible Wood (and PEFC) brands in the Australian and New Zealand market, resulting in a rapid growth in Responsible Wood.

An experienced spokesperson, Jason has presented to a variety of forums including the United Nations (Australia and New Zealand), the Property Council (Australia), Master Builder (Australia), the Building Designer Association of Australia (BDAA), the Australian Institute of Building, the National Retailers Association, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and New Zealand (NZGBC), the PEFC Council (Geneva, Switzerland), the Wood Processors Manufacturing Association (New Zealand) and the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP).

In 2021-22, Jason was awarded a JW Gottstein Fellowship, an international project to explore the role of the circular economy in the Australian forest products industry.

He has a Master’s Degree, Marketing (advanced) from the Queensland University of Technology; is a QUT Graduate School of Management and has a Bachelor Degree, Economics and Management.

JIM BOWDEN, Senior Editor and Co-Publisher

Jim Bowden brings more than 50 years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.

His career in journalism and media management includes national promotions manager for the Rural Press Group of publications, associate editor and chief of staff, Queensland Country Life, founding editor of The Cattleman, Australian Timberman, Go Camping Australia, Australian Handyman, and Australian Joinery magazines

Jim  was managing editor of Timber&Forestry enews (2010-22) and was national secretary of the JW Gottstein Memorial Trust Fund.
He is a  foundation member of the Rural Press Club and has edited and published six books on deer farming; goats (meat, fibre and milk; Agriculture – An Extension; “A Child’s Organic Garden; Aquaculture in Australia; Fish Farming for Recreation and Profit; and the Australian Forest Industries Directory (2 editions), and recently a children’s book Aussie Bush Rhymes for Younger Minds.

Jim has led or co-led trade missions to the US, South America, New Zealand, Europe, Malaysia, China and The Philippines. He was leader of the EuroWood 2001 tour to the LIGNA Trade Fair in Hannover, Germany, that also inspected timber machinery plants in Austria and Italy.

As an agricultural journalist, Jim was special UK correspondent for Queensland Country Life for six months based in London and Cardiff, Wales.

• Warm welcome to Wood Central, and other thoughts as industry arrives on new platform

An elephant in the room, but a good one… Jim Bowden, leader of the EuroWood 2021 tour to the LIGNA Trade Fair in Hannover, pictured with the Weinig logo on a visit to the German manufacturer’s HQ in Tauberbischofsheim.

Lendlease Cuts Losses: $4B UK and US Assets Now Up for Sale

Lendlease has been instrumental in delivering a number of projects across Europe and North America - including the activation of the London Olympic Athletes Village into International Quarter.
Lendlease has been instrumental in delivering a number of projects across Europe and North America - including the activation of the London Olympic Athletes Village into International Quarter.

One of the world’s largest construction contractors is selling out of its US and UK businesses – and is hoping that the deals will free up AU $4.5 billion to pay down debts and reinvest back into its Australian operations.

Announced overnight, Lendlease—which in late 2021 signed off on a Global Agreement with Stora Enso to establish a dedicated mass timber research and development studio—described the assets as a “drag” on shareholder returns. “Australia’s first global builder” is now in the early stages of bringing the businesses to market, which, instead, amounts to a major u-turn from its global expansion over the past decade.

Tony Lombardo discusses Lendlease’s “five-year turnaround” during an interview with CNBC. Footage courtesy of @CNBCInternational.

According to Lendlease Chair Michael Ullmer, the “strategic refocus” is part of a new “blueprint to position Lendlease for success – focusing on our core strengths and competitive advantages.”

In a conference call with institutional investors, Tony Lombardo, Lendlease CEO and Managing Director mapped out the new direction:

“We think the UK and US are very good ongoing businesses, and we feel we will be able to find the buyers for both – we are assuming over that next 18-month period [that we will] have executed transactions.”

Tony Lombardo, Lendlease CEO and Managing Director

Mr Lombardo added that two-thirds of the company’s assets are now deployed in projects and assets outside Australia, with 80% expected to reach practical completion after 2030.

“These projects have excellent fundamentals, but they are long-dated, and their expected returns are too far into the future,” he said, citing that the projects had a 0.6% EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortisation).

According to Mr Ullmer, the executive team has “thought very carefully about the necessary strategic refocus and made some tough decisions,” adding that the “bold strategy” addresses a drop in financial performance:

“We recognise that our security price performance and security holder returns have been poor as we have faced structural challenges and a prolonged market downturn,” Mr Ullmer said. “We need to take significant action at an accelerated pace to deliver value for our security holders, capital partners and customers.”

Capital Release Unit will sell $2.8 billion over the next year.

Wood Central understands that the new strategy is centred around simplification. It will see a new Capital Release Unit established to raise AU $2.8 billion over the next 12 months. The strategy will involve exiting international construction and accelerating capital release from offshore development projects and assets.

“Through the decisive actions announced now, a new Lendlease is emerging,” Mr Lombardo said, “One that is anchored in the very best of our proud legacy, but less complex, more focused, and fit for purpose.” Before adding that, “our people and customers will more easily understand this new Lendlease and will be transparent and predictable for security holders.”

It comes amid a global slowdown in construction, specifically in the inner-city office market. Footage courtesy of @Bloomberg Originals.

Key measures include reducing the company’s annual cost base by $125m within 12 months, strengthening the balance sheet by lowering gearing to between 5% and 15% by the end of the financial year 2026 and initiating a $500m on-market buyback.

Some of Lendlease’s international projects.

Last year, Wood Central revealed that the Australian construction giant was working with the US Department of Defence on the US Army’s Privatised Army Lodging (PAL) program. This program will see Lendlease develop four hotel developments for the US Army out of cross-laminated timber.

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Lendlease and IHG Army Hotels broke ground on the new Candlewood Suites hotel at Fort Liberty in North Carolina. Expected to open in early 2026, the 207-room hotel is the 17th Candlewood Suites property. Lendlease and IHG have partnered since 2009 as part of the Privatization of Army Lodging (PAL) initiative. (Photo Credit: Lend Lease)

The latest of these projects, Candlewood Suites – set to open in 2026, is located at Fort Liberty in North Carolina, one of the world’s largest military bases. “For more than a decade, Lendlease and IHG – one of the world’s largest hotel chains – have had a long and successful relationship with the Fort Liberty leadership team through the Privatised Army Lodging (PAL) program,” Matt Garrett, from Lendlease Communities said last year.

Lendlease, through its Milan-based Podium MX studio, has been driving the uptake in cross-laminated timber projects worldwide, including International Quarter London’s ‘lego-like’ ‘Timber Pavilion’ in the heart of the Olympic precinct.

NZ’s Beef with EUDR: World’s Least Corrupt Nation Counts Red Tape

The world's lead corrupt country, New Zealand, could drown in the compliance costs connected to the European Union's European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR). (Photo Credit: FILE #: 725721520 via Adobe Stock Images)
The world's lead corrupt country, New Zealand, could drown in the compliance costs connected to the European Union's European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR). (Photo Credit: FILE #: 725721520 via Adobe Stock Images)

New Zealand is the latest country to flag concerns with the EUDR, with the wood processing industry grappling with how the new rules will impact its NZ $100 million trade in wood pallets into the European Union.

It comes after Wood Central exclusively revealed that the Australian Government had written to the European Commission expressing concern about the rules and its implications for Australia’s trade in wood and beef.

Already, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the United States – the world’s largest producer of forest products – are tightening the screws on EU policymakers, claiming that the new legislation will lead to a surge in prices for forest-based products.

As a result, the Financial Times reported that EU policymakers are now debating whether to delay or water down parts of the regulation to allow global supply chains to catch up.

The EU will stall important parts of the EUDR over concerns from partner countries - with Indonesia and Malaysia, home to 85% of the world's palm oil production, among the most vocal in opposition to the new legislation. (Photo Credit: Cloudyew / Alamy Stock Photo)
In March, the Financial Times reported that the EU would stall important parts of the EUDR over concerns from partner countries – with Indonesia and Malaysia, home to 85% of the world’s palm oil production, among the most vocal in opposition to the new legislation. (Photo Credit: Cloudyew / Alamy Stock Photo)

According to Mark Ross, the CEO of the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association—New Zealand’s peak body for wood processing—the local industry is now in a state of flux, with processors now weighing up the compliance costs around the new rules.

“We support that, but the way they’re going about it, it’s going to be hard to meet the criteria they put out there for New Zealand exporters to the European Union countries,” said Mr Ross, who spoke to RNZ today

Despite topping the corruption perception index and having next to nil risk of deforestation, Mr Ross said that processors would need to provide documentation detailing where trees came from before products were processed and information about forests and trees replanted.

“They’ll need to have geolocation data that shows where those forests have come from when it comes to wood products,” he said, adding that “we will need to have satellite images like GPS coordinates showing where those trees were harvested before they were processed.”

The EUDR, the EU’s signature green deal regulation, will have a major impact on timber, paper and pulp exporters looking to export products to the EU – even if the country of origin is not deemed a risk of deforestation. Footage courtesy of @preferredbynature.

Last week, Wood Central reported that the compliance cost of the new legislation could blow out beyond US $2.5 billion per year, with an expert warning that exporters may need to run two separate supply chains—”one that is EUDR-ready, and the other which is not.” 

According to Mr Ross, the new rules will be especially challenging for agriculture because the provisions state that export products cannot be linked to the conversion of natural ecosystems: “If the lands harvested then converted into agriculture, you won’t be able to export those products. So if it’s harvested and replanted, you’ll be fine.”

New Zealand’s new FTA with the EU comes into effect next month.

The concerns around the new EUDR, enforceable from December, come after New Zealand’s new free trade agreement kicks off later this week. In a new report produced by Export NZ, Seizing opportunities through compliance, the NZ government body recognises that:

“Whilst New Zealand’s cattle and forestry sectors are generally well-regulated and sustainable, exporters must demonstrate compliance with the EU’s stringent sustainability criteria to maintain access to the single market.” Before acknowledging that “this could involve additional administrative burdens and costs, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.”

Export NZ’s Seizing opportunities (in the EU) through compliance, the NZ government’s latest report.

It said compliance with New Zealand’s incoming legal harvest assurance scheme for forestry “may ensure compliance with this EU regulation,” which, if all goes well, will begin in 2026 – with the Ministry for Primary Industries extending the consultation period for the system to June 4th.

Mr Ross said the wood processing sector would hold workshops with interested parties to help them adjust to the changes before then searching for possible forest tracing software available in the market.

“But at the moment there, there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty around what needs to be done,” he said, “some people are calling it significant implications and that trying to get that data would be very difficult in some circumstances.”

The EU are in the process of introducing the world's strongest deforestation laws. As the third largest timber market in the world, behind China and the US, it will have major implications for global supply chains for forest products. (Image Credit: Getty Images)
The EU are in the process of introducing the world’s strongest deforestation laws. As the third largest timber market in the world, behind China and the US, it will have major implications for global supply chains for forest products. (Image Credit: Getty Images)
NZ is in a strong position to carve out a competitive advantage.

But he said New Zealand was in a good position and believed the sector could gain a competitive advantage here. He added that “when it comes to forestry and planting trees, we have good systems in place when it comes to knowing where our products come from.”

In an email to members, the association said it was considering “the approach and service of FSC”, the Forest Stewardship Council certification, but said feedback was that the scheme alone would not provide the paperwork expected to be needed by European officials.

How the EUDR will work.
  • The regulation will assign a low, standard, or high-risk level associated with deforestation and forest degradation to regions within countries inside and outside the EU.
  • This risk classification will guide the obligations of various operators and the authorities in member states to perform inspections and controls. Consequently, this will streamline monitoring for high-risk regions and simplify due diligence processes for low-risk regions.
  • Authorities responsible for these areas must inspect 9% of operators and traders dealing with products from high-risk regions, 3% from standard-risk areas, and 1% from low-risk regions. This inspection aims to confirm whether they are effectively meeting the obligations stipulated by the regulation.
  • Further, these competent authorities will inspect 9% of relevant goods and products either placed on their market, made available, or exported by high-risk regions.
  • Lastly, the EU plans to enhance its cooperation with partner countries, focusing primarily on high-risk areas.

For more information, visit Wood Central’s special feature on EUDR and its implications for the global supply chain of forest products from July 2023. For changes to the official text of the EUDR, visit the EU’s official website.

Timber Concessions Drive 76% of Malaysia’s Deforestation: Report

According to a new report, produced by environmental watchdog Rimbawatch, timber and palm oil concessions are fuelling a surge in unreported deforestation in areas including Sarawak, Malaysia. (Photo Credit: travelib asia / Alamy Stock Photo)
According to a new report, produced by environmental watchdog Rimbawatch, timber and palm oil concessions are fuelling a surge in unreported deforestation in areas including Sarawak, Malaysia. (Photo Credit: travelib asia / Alamy Stock Photo)

Malaysia is at risk of losing 16% of its remaining forest cover, with government concessions for timber and palm oil threaten the country’s COP26 commitment to maintain 50% of forest and tree cover.

That is according to the environmental watchdog Rimbawatch, which has been vocal about Malaysia’s lack of transparency around forestry and land use data.

Now, its latest publication, the State of Malaysian Rainforests for 2024, reports that based on its own definition of deforestation, forests at-risk have increased from 2.3 million hectares in 2023 to 3.2 million hectares.

According to the report, “timber plantations represent more than 76% of total threats to forests, with the majority of these concessions located in intact forests,” adding that “oil palm and timber concessions overlap.” 

In addition, it alleges that timber plantations are encroaching on indigenous communities, with “the majority of future deforestation unreported by Malaysian authorities due to loopholes in definitions.”

The loopholes stem from how the Malaysian government categorise the conversion of natural forests to timber plantations: “When a natural forest in a gazetted estate or reserve is converted to monoculture,” it said, “Malaysia does not consider any clearances for timber plantations as deforestation, regardless of physical changes to the ecosystem.”

Malaysia pledged to preserve 50% of forest and tree cover as part of its Nationally Determined Contribution at COP26. Footage courtesy of @UNClimateChange.

The upshot is that, in line with the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s (FAO) definition of deforestation, “there is hardly any deforestation from plantations,” with Rimbawatch also alleging the government is therefore manipulating its forest cover area.

If Malaysia targets 2.3m hectares for deforestation, will forest cover drop to 47.35% (below the COP26 commitment)

“If this deforestation occurs, Malaysia’s forest cover will drop below 50 per cent of our landmass, thereby constituting a failure of Malaysia’s commitment to maintain 50 per cent forest cover,” Rimbawatch said in a press statement accompanying the report.

It said that the overall loss of forests – measured at 3.2 million hectares, is equivalent to Pahang, Malaysia’s largest state. According to Rimbawatch co-founder and director Adam Farhan, Pahang is among the top states where concessions overlap with natural forests, with other states including Sarawak, Sabah, and Kelantan. 

The report also states that Sarawak reported 68.2% of timber plantations in intact forests, four times more than the next highest—Sabah, with 16.1%. Of all concession types, monoculture timber plantations are the greatest threat to Malaysian forests, followed by degazettement of forest reserves, hydropower projects, and palm oil plantations.

Screenshot 28 5 2024 145740 9b2d2d75 7adf 4ea5 8c47
Three-quarters of all at-risk forests are located inside timber plantations.

According to the report “timber plantations refer to programmes Malaysia’s forestry authorities support to increase timber supply,” adding that “these plantations … involve the clearance of natural forests in forest reserves and their conversion to monoculture plantations, usually for rubberwood or acacia.”

Whilst authorities promote plantations as a means to “restore” degraded forests, data showed that just 38% of forests in timber plantation concessions are degraded, with the majority classified as “undisturbed forests.” 

Rimbawatch analysed the data using ArcGIS, measuring the European Union’s Tropical Moist Forest cover data set, a tool used to support the EUDR against Malaysia’s concession boundaries.

Worryingly, the Rimbwatch said that due to official definitions of forest cover, much of the deforestation could go unreported. “Official data remains untransparent,” Rimbawatch noted, pointing out that Malaysia does not publish geospatial data of its official forest cover statistics and that timber concession maps are outdated.

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Overlap of Oil Palm and Timber Concessions in Sarawak, Malaysia. (Image Credit: RimbaWatch 2023)
Definitions matter: Push for greater transparency in reporting.

Not only will the clearance of Malaysian forests jeopardise its forest cover commitments, but it also threatens the country’s biodiversity and ecological functions and its commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

According to the report, clearing 2.4 million hectares of timber plantations would release 368 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – equivalent to a year’s worth of emissions from the UK. As a result, “Rimbawatch is making an urgent call based on these findings for an immediate end to all conversions in forest reserves for timber plantations.”

The new report comes just weeks after Rimbewatch launched a new tool to track deforestation in Malaysia. “Forest Tracker” allows users to track past and projected deforestation in Malaysia, with different land-use layers, including oil palm, timber plantations, mining, infrastructure and other commodities.

According to Rimbawatch, the Forest Tracker is the only comprehensive Malaysian forest concessions database covering all deforestation-risk sectors. It is the only publicly available collated dataset on Indigenous traditional territories nationwide. 

“As the government continues to hide data related to environmental impact assessments, the location of oil palm plantations, forest reserves, forest cover and others, we hope that by publishing this map, we are, as a citizen-led initiative, fulfilling the right of the public to information,” Mr Farhan said. 

India & Iran’s Port Deal to End Russia’s Conflict Timber Loophole?


In July 2022, the European Union banned imports of wood from Russia in an attempt to increase the economic cost of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since the ban, exports of timber from Central Asia have skyrocketed.

The sudden exponential increase in log exports from Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan suggests timber is being routed from Russia across the region on its journey to Europe. This enables Russian companies to obfuscate the illegal origins of their timber while still generating wealth for the Russian economy and its $12 billion wood industry.

Efforts by Russian companies to ‘mask’ the ultimate origin of their timber increases the risk for EU importers who, pursuant to the post-invasion timber ban and the EU Deforestation Regulation, are prohibited from importing timber or timber products with inputs sourced back to Russia.

Uzbekistan has emerged as a major kingpin in Russia and Belarus's extensive conflict trade - with the former soviet state building extensive railway networks connecting Minsk and Moscow to Beijing. (Photo Credit: Chinese Government)
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan has emerged as a major kingpin in Russia and Belarus’s extensive conflict trade – with the former soviet state building extensive railway networks connecting Minsk and Moscow to Beijing. (Photo Credit: Chinese Government)

But Russia’s ‘back-door’ trade activities in the region could soon be thwarted … by India, which has signed a 10-year contract to develop and operate the strategic Iranian port of Chabahar, recognised as the gateway to landlocked Afghanistan and energy-rich Central Asia and is the closest Iranian port to India. A deep-water port in the Sistan-Baluchis province of Iran, it is the closest Iranian port to India.

Under the long-term deal between India Ports Global Ltd and the Ports and Maritime Organisation of Iran, New Delhi is set to invest about $120 million in equipping the port and has also offered Tehran a credit window of $250 million with the aim of improving project-related infrastructure, taking the total contract value to $370 million. The landmark deal replaces a 2016 pact that was being renewed on an annual basis.

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The strategic Iranian port of Chabahar, recognised as the gateway to landlocked Afghanistan and energy-rich Central Asia. (Photo Credit: The Statesman)

India wanted the port, on Iran’s southeastern coast along the Gulf of Oman, developed to help it gain access to war-torn Afghanistan. It also needed a route for its companies to enter Central Asia, bypassing rival neighbour Pakistan.

In 2023, Uzbekistan-registered Birch Products LLC received shipments of sawn birch and birch plywood from several Russian companies, four of which are Russian government contractors and one a sea terminal that is sanctioned by Ukraine for its role in facilitating the war. Birch Products, in turn, exported shipments of sawn birch and birch plywood throughout 2023 to a plywood and timber processing company registered in Estonia, an EU nation.

The same category of goods shipped to and from Uzbekistan suggests Birch Products is being used to evade the EU ban on Russian timber. Additionally, Birch was registered in August 2022, one month after the timber ban.

Besides giving India access to Central Asia, the Chabahar port could also help it counter Gwadar port in Pakistan, near the Iranian border, which is operated by the China Overseas Ports Holding Co. under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

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India and Iran have signed a 10-year contract to further equip the Iranian port of Chabahar.(Photo Credit: twitter@sarbanandsonwal)

One of Gwadar Port’s sales pitches was to provide easy and quick access to Central Asia, but the Indian-controlled port in Chabahar, located just 170 km west of Gwadar, can now deprive it of this advantage.

Tania Baloch, a political analyst based in Canada, said that the increase in the Indian footprint just across the border from Pakistan was significant following skirmishes between Pakistan and Iran in January.

“India has got a very good opportunity to take advantage of Pakistan-Iran border tensions and strategically compete with Chinese-controlled Gwadar Port, which has failed to kick off,” she said.

Gwadar Port has limited commercial activity, and hardly any ships dock there for unloading cargo. Pakistan has not been able to properly develop the port as planned. In 2015, a 300-megawatt coal power plant was approved for the port, but work has not yet started on that, resulting in a severe shortage of power needed for economic development in the city.

“The Chinese are frustrated with how things are not going as planned for Gwadar Port,” a Pakistani government official dealing with CPEC told Nikkei Asia on condition of anonymity. “They are not happy with the current state of the Gwadar project, but they can’t just pack and leave.”

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Akshay Mathur…… Chabahar Port has crucial geoeconomic benefits for India. (Photo Credit: Asia Society)

According to Akshay Mathur, senior director at the New Delhi-based Asia Society Policy Institute, the agreement to operate the Chabahar port has other crucial geoeconomic benefits for India, such as accruing long-term international business experience in running an overseas port in a foreign free trade zone at a geopolitical hotspot.

“The negotiations between India and Iran for Chabahar may have been catalysed by China’s economic and suspected naval activity in the region, but India has been discussing the Chabahar port with Iran since 2003, a decade before China’s Belt and Road Initiative was formally launched in 2013,” Mathur said.

Sanjay Kumar Pandey, a professor at the Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said the major hurdle for the Chabahar port was the US approach to the agreement. Hours after India and Iran signed the 10-year pact, the US warned of possible sanctions against those engaging with Tehran.

Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson at the US State Department, told reporters in Washington in response to a question on the deal that “any entity, anyone considering business deals with Iran, they need to be aware of the potential risk that they are opening themselves up to and the potential risk of sanctions.”

India and China now scrambling to secure overseas port networks - as both fight to control the Indo Pacific supply chain for raw log and lumber. (Photo Credit: Ivan Marc Sanchez / Alamy Stock Photo)
India and China now scrambling to secure overseas port networks – as both fight to control the Indo Pacific supply chain for raw log and lumber. (Photo Credit: Ivan Marc Sanchez / Alamy Stock Photo)

Although India and Iran had talked about developing the port for over 20 years, progress was stymied by US-led economic sanctions on Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.

“I did see some remarks which were made, but I think it’s a question of communicating and convincing and getting people to understand that this is actually for everybody’s benefit,” Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said in response to a question on the US warning.

Minister Jaishankar pointed out that in the past, the US had been “appreciative of the fact that Chabahar has a larger relevance,” particularly in the context of humanitarian supplies to Afghanistan.

“We will work at it,” he said.

Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College London, added: “While eyebrows would be raised in the West – and Washington in particular – I think that perhaps can be sorted with some serious strategic thinking.

“If India is not there, then the Chinese will come there.”

Timber Building to Rise Near Brisbane’s Olympic Village Site

18 Racecourse Road, Ascot is the latest mass timber build set to rise in Brisbane. (Photo Credit: Brisbane City Council courtesy of The Urban Developer)
18 Racecourse Road, Ascot is the latest mass timber build set to rise in Brisbane. (Photo Credit: Brisbane City Council courtesy of The Urban Developer)

Mass timber is on the rise in Brisbane, home to the 2032 Olympic Games, with Barber Studio behind a new five-storey “expressive timber structure” made from Australian-sourced cross-laminated timber and glulam – with the new building, the latest in the reactivation of Racecourse Road, one of Brisbane’s most famous “destination streets.” 

As reported by the Urban Developer today, the 18 Racecourse Road site—which neighbours the Hamilton Hotel—is close to the site of the proposed 2032 Athletes Village, which Wood Central exclusively revealed last year will also be constructed from mass timber.

Under the proposal, a 24-metre high, 948-square-metre office building will rise on a narrow 478-square-metre site, with planning reports lodged by the developers, Godfrey Esmonde’s Holm Developments revealing that:

“The architectural design is defined by an expressive timber structure behind a shaded transparent facade that includes a combination of glazing, metal cladding and a lightweight perforated metal screen.”

Wood Central understands that four levels of commercial office space will sit above a ground-floor foyer, with an adjacent subtropical landscaped “outdoor room” with a slender frontage to Racecourse Road. In addition, glazed western and eastern facades would provide views to the city and down leafy Racecourse Road to the river, respectively. 

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Renders of the proposed timber office development at Racecourse Road, Hamilton, on Brisbane’s north shore. (Photo Credit: Brisbane City Council)

According to the design statement, the timber building “offers a unique identity integral to its materiality and expressed structure,” with mass timber providing “a visual demonstration of the project’s pursuit of sustainable development, with a significantly reduced carbon footprint”.

In addition, “using a palette of subtly varying, light-coloured metal profiles and diffuse translucent screens, the building façade seeks to enhance the natural qualities of the timber interior it is adjacent to and the green foliage of the exterior treed context.”

The design includes a range of energy consumption and greenhouse gas reduction strategies—notably, “engineered timber and light-coloured cladding to reduce heat loads on the external building fabric as well as solar panels on its saw-tooth profiled roof.”

Importantly, “the majority of the building’s structure is carbon negative, with significant carbon sequestration values through the use of renewable, re-growable Australian timber.”

Brisbane’s rising timber skyline

The new building continues a trend of mid-rise and high-rise timber buildings rising across Brisbane. 

Last year, Wood Central reported that the former site of Brisbane’s oldest undertaker – which borders Plywood and Timber Houses – the long-time home to the Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia and Timber Queensland – would be converted into a four-storey data centre using mass timber. 

Plans have been lodged with the Brisbane City Council for Australias latest mass timber building which is to be developed on a site next to Plywood House in Queensland Wood Central 1.png
Last year, Asia Pacific Internet Development Trust (APIDT) earmarked the former site of Alex Gow Funerals – at 56 Breakfast Creek Road, Newstead – to be one of Australia’s largest mass timber buildings – by footprint. (Photo Credit: Brisbane City Council)

Whilst the Queensland government has committed to using mass timber in its Olympic infrastructure – as part of a pledge to use cleaner, greener and more sustainable construction materials.

In April 2023, a South Australian delegation travelled to Queensland to tour four recently constructed mass timber buildings, including 25 King Street—formerly the world’s tallest timber engineering building—and Monterey Apartments, which for a time was the southern hemisphere’s tallest all-timber building.

Hamilton Northshore the site of the Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games Athletes Village Photo credit dsdilgp.qld .gov .au Wood Central 1 2 1024x681.png
Hamilton Northshore is the site of the Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games Athletes Village (Photo Credit:
Kim Baber and the push to use mass timber in buildings

Kim Baber, the studio’s principal behind the Racecourse Road design, is part of a growing breed of architects working with mass timber fabricators to create buildings that explore “material, space, and structure.”

As well as running Baber Studio, Mr Baber is also a fellow of the UQ School of Architecture and a member of the ARC Advance Timber Hub – and is sure to feature in the World Timber Engineering Conference, which is coming to Brisbane for the first time, next year.

Brisbane-based Kim Baber of Baber Studio is part of a new wave of architects using 3D-modelling to build the next generation of timber buildings (Photo Credit: Responsible Wood)
Brisbane-based Kim Baber of Baber Studio is part of a new wave of architects using 3D modelling to build the next generation of timber buildings (Photo Credit: Responsible Wood)

Australia is now one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for cross-laminated timber, and this is not before time, according to Mr Baber, who was awarded a Gottstein Trust Fellowship in 2016 to study timber architecture and fabrication.

The project, The Expressive Capacity of Timber in Architecture, saw Mr Baber review technologies in Austria, Switzerland and Japan, “seeking to identify why the use of expressed timber structure in construction may be considered beneficial and pragmatic…can be implemented effectively in construction.”

Since then, Mr Baber has travelled to Oslo, Norway, as part of the ARC Avance Timber Hub, where he co-presented a paper on timber’s fire resistance at the World Timber Engineering Conference.

  • To learn more about the 18 Racecourse Road development, visit the Brisbane City Council Planning website here.

World’s First Curved, Wind-Proof CLT Tower Rises in 3 Days

University of Stuttgart professor Achim Menges has shared details of a new research-led observation tower project called Wangen Tower after its realization earlier this month at the regional garden showcase Landesgartenschau Wangen im Allgäu in southern Germany. (Photo Credit: © ICD/ITKE/IntCDC University of Stuttgart)
University of Stuttgart professor Achim Menges has shared details of a new research-led observation tower project called Wangen Tower after its realization earlier this month at the regional garden showcase Landesgartenschau Wangen im Allgäu in southern Germany. (Photo Credit: © ICD/ITKE/IntCDC University of Stuttgart)

The world’s first multi-storey structure made from recycled concrete, steel, and self-shaped cross-laminated timber (CLT) has been erected in Southern Germany.

Designed by the University of Stuttgart’s Integrative Computational Design and Construction for Architecture Cluster of Excellence (IntCDC), the new Wangen Tower, which opened earlier this month, was assembled in just three days!

Standing 23 meters tall, the Wangen Tower comprises twelve long structural segments manufactured from three different CLT elements. Each element is precision-machined using 5-axis CNC technology, then connected through a newly developed mono-material lap joint. According to IntCDC, this joint “transmits forces in all directions, creating continuous CLT, all while maintaining constant cross-sectional dimensions.”

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The Wangen Tower is under construction. (Photo: Biedenkapp Stahlbau GmbH)

The tower’s helix-shaped spiral and the curvature of its CLT surfaces form a surface-active timber structure capable of withstanding horizontal wind loads. IntCDC explains that the curvature adds stiffness to the timber, similar to a corrugated sheet. 

Moreover, the central spine of the staircase supports vertical loads and elegantly highlights the precise load distribution among the structural components by tapering at the base.

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The 113-step hot-dip galvanized steel spiral staircase inside the cross-laminated timber superstructure. (Photo Credit: University of Stuttgart)

Professor Jan Knippers, head of the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design, noted that “the innovation in timber construction is enabled by an integrative approach to scientific research, computational design, digital fabrication, and expert craftsmanship.” 

He added that the tower’s curved timber components are based on a self-shaping manufacturing process influenced by wood’s moisture-induced shrinking.

Wangen Tower was designed, certified, and constructed over the course of a year. The University of Stuttgart’s IntCDC used 3D computer modelling to create the spire. The self-shaped components are made from flat panels consisting of a 30-millimeter-thick ‘active’ layer and a 10-millimeter-thin ‘restrictive’ layer. 

After lamination, the panels undergo controlled kiln-drying, during which the active layer shrinks perpendicularly to the fibre direction, shaping the panels into their curved form. Three bilayer plates and a thin locking layer are laminated to form a curved 130-millimeter-thin CLT panel.

To enhance efficiency, the structural segments were pre-assembled into pairs, minimising on-site construction time to just three days. Steel connectors and most of the facade’s 168 individually crafted larch panels were pre-mounted in the factory. 

The components were then installed on-site on a shallow foundation made from recycled concrete with CO2-reduced cement. Finally, the spiral staircase and viewing platform were inserted from above to complete the structure.

“The distinctive expression of the tower’s unique timber structure showcases the design possibilities in renewable, locally sourced, and resource-effective timber architecture,” said Professor Achim Menges, Director of Cluster of Excellence IntCDC.

Wangen Tower details
  • Height: approx. 23 meters (75 feet)
  • Footprint: 50 square meters (538 square feet)
  • Viewing tower diameter: 5.6 meters (18 feet)
  • Foundation: recycled concrete with CO2-reduced cement
  • Timber structure: twelve curved CLT panels with 130-millimeter thickness and a total surface area of 360 square meters (3,875 square feet)
  • Staircase: hot-dip galvanized steel spiral staircase with 113 steps
  • Viewing platform: hot-dip galvanized steel structure with glass panels
Project partners
  • Cluster of Excellence IntCDC — Integrative Computational Design and Construction for Architecture, University of Stuttgart
  • Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD): Prof. Achim Menges, Martin Alvarez, Monika Göbel, Laura Kiesewetter, David Stieler, and Dr. Dylan Wood, with the support of Gonzalo Muñoz Guerrero, Alina Turean, and Aaron Wagner
  • Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE): Professor Dr. Jan Knippers and Gregor Neubauer
  • Blumer-Lehmann AG: Katharina Lehmann, David Riggenbach, and Jan Gantenbein
  • Biedenkapp Stahlbau GmbH: Markus Reischmann and Frank Jahr
  • Stadt Wangen im Allgäu — Landesgartenschau Wangen im Allgäu 2024 GmbH

Scientists Crack Fire-Retardant Paint: Is FireCoat a Breakthrough?

The new paint, acts like an undercoat over timber cladding and will be able to provide protection up to BAL-40, which is the highest level where dwellings are permitted. (Photo Credit: iStock Images / JohnCarnemolla)
The new paint, acts like an undercoat over timber cladding and will be able to provide protection up to BAL-40, which is the highest level where dwellings are permitted. (Photo Credit: iStock Images / JohnCarnemolla)

As California gears up for another wildfire season, Australian engineers are developing new types of fire-retardant paint that promise to protect millions of dwellings and take the global market by storm.

Known as “FireCoat”, the new acrylic paint has been developed by Australia’s Flame Security International (FSI), who, in collaboration with the University of New South Wales, is now testing paints at UC Berkeley Disaster Lab – to determine their resilience under heavy fire.

“As California faces an increasingly severe wildfire crisis, it has been crucial for researchers, scientists and manufacturers to work together to build the resilience of our homes and communities,” says Thomas Azwell, the Founder and Director of the UC Berkeley Disaster Lab, who has invited North American media to attend a special burn test next week.

The Disaster Lab collaborates on evaluating innovative construction materials and technology that can aid in disaster preparation and protect communities in high-risk areas. (Credit: UC Berkeley Disaster Lab)
UNSW’s “Secret Recipe” to Protect All Houses From Flames 

Developed for Australian conditions, the new paint is the first to pass BAL-40, Australia’s second-highest Bushfire Attack Level. Professor Guan Yeoh, one of Australia’s leading researchers in mechanical and manufacturing engineering, describes it as “a breakthrough” containing a “secret recipe” that “means it can protect all houses.”

The hope is that it could spark “the development of what people think of using common things like paint, or even other devices, whatever, to increase the fire resilience.”

According to Professor Yeoh, who is also the Director of the ARC Training Centre for Fire Retardant Materials and Safety Technologies, “If you apply the paint, which is an undercoat, onto the house, it will transform itself to a very thick, carbon or char layer that actually protects the substrate and deflecting the heat away from the bushfires.”

Breaking down the BAL Rating System – footage courtesy of @UndercoverArchitect.

After application, the undercoat meets the requirements of BAL-40, as outlined in the AS 3959-2018, the standard for constructing buildings in bushfire-prone areas.

“AS 3959-2018 is a guide used to design dwellings that minimise risk for different levels of bushfire vulnerability,” according to Boris Iskra, the National Standards Manager for Forest and Wood Products Australia, who, in September, presented a webinar on BAL ratings with the Wood Central publisher.

Professor Yeoh said the new paint is just like the standard undercoat used for many current paints. “But it’s just that it has some secret ingredients that grow the layer.”

“I can’t reveal my secret ingredients to you,” he said before adding that the new formula was like Colonel Sanders’, with researchers “protecting the KFC (like) recipe.”

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Professor Guan Yeoh, Director of the ARC Training Centre for Fire Retardant Materials and Safety Technologies at the University of New South Wales with his “breakthrough” fire coating product. Photo Credit: University of New South Wales.

According to Professor Yeoh, fire reaches “about 1000 °C to 1200 °C” during fire inundation; however, with the help of the protective layer offered by the fire-retardant paint, “that can decrease the temperature from 1000 degrees C to roughly around 25 to 30 °C at the substrate surface.”

Under heat, the paint grows from very thin to very thick to protect the timber; after fire inundation, some residue remains. “But you can see that the wood has not burnt at all,” Professor Yeoh said before adding that you can “prep the surface again, and then you repaint it.”

Scientists are now exploring ways to make preservatives fire-resistant. 

In recent months, climate-induced mega-fires have caused fire authorities to grapple in AustraliaCanadaIndonesiaUkraine, and Greece, in addition to the United States

Earlier this month, Wood Central reported that researchers found that adding alkaline lignin to water-based intumescent acrylic coatings improves the flame-retardant properties of wood-based materials.

“Based on this information, intumescent water-based coatings containing 5% alkaline lignin improves flame retardancy by promoting the formation of an ideal char layer during combustion,” according to a new study published in the 2024 edition of the Journal of Coatings Technology and Research

Intumescent coatings with alkaline lignin have a superior flame retardant compared to those without additives. (Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Images)
Intumescent coatings with alkaline lignin have a superior flame retardant compared to those without additives. (Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Images)

The researchers also tested water-based acrylic resin mixed with 1%, 3%, 5%, and 10% lignin concentrations. “The analysis results reveal that coatings containing 5% alkaline lignin were more effective in reducing flammability than those containing higher concentrations.”

As for FireCoat, Wood Central understands that the paint will be available for sale in Ace hardware stores across California starting in August.

New Stand-Down Order as EPA Beefs Up Glider Rules in NSW Forests

Under the new rules, the endangered Southern Greater Glider will have greater protections according to the NSW EPA. (Photo Credit: Flickr via Creative Commons)
Under the new rules, the endangered Southern Greater Glider will have greater protections according to the NSW EPA. (Photo Credit: Flickr via Creative Commons)

The NSW hardwood supply chain is now subject to a new stand-down order, with select contractors involved in harvesting NSW’s state forests in the state’s north and south being stood down.

It comes as the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the NSW state government’s environmental watchdog, issued a new order today. While the new order falls short of a formal stop-work order, the EPA is “investigating potential non-compliances with the SSBCs”—issued in February—and has not ruled out taking further action.

Wood Central understands that EPA has introduced new requirements for a 25-metre logging exclusion zone applied to any tree in which a Geater Glider is sighted by the Forest Corporation of NSW—the state’s body responsible for managing the state forests—during a search and survey.

According to the NSW EPA, this new requirement “is in addition to the existing exclusion zone requirement, which protects trees where Greater Glider dens have been identified,” adding that the latest amendments “have been made to increase protections for other trees known to be used by Greater Gliders, where dens have not necessarily been identified but are likely to be present.”

“Changes have also been made to clarify requirements for how nocturnal searches and surveys must be conducted. This includes requiring search and surveys to be conducted at night, with the first transect of the search and survey commencing within 30 minutes of sunset to increase the likelihood of observing gliders leaving their dens.”

This afternoon, Wood Central spoke to Maree McCaskill, the CEO of Timber NSW, who said the new orders will impact mill supply – and will have a downstream impact on the state’s hardwood supply chain.

The new action comes after the EPA introduced a raft of requirements in February. The EPA confirmed that “the February SSBCs did not reflect the shared understanding of the EPA and FCNSW that only the first part of the search and survey had to commence within the first hour of sunset. As a result, the EPA is not issuing Stop Work Orders at this time. However, we are still investigating potential non-compliance with the SSBCs.” 

The February CIFOA requirements included:
  • A 50-metre exclusion zone around known recorded locations of greater glider dens.
  • Protection of extra greater glider trees in addition to existing hollow bearing and giant tree requirements:
    • Six trees per hectare greater than 80cm in diameter in high greater glider density areas, in addition to the eight hollow-bearing trees currently required to be protected.
    • Four trees per hectare greater than 50cm in diameter in lower-density areas, in addition to the eight hollow-bearing trees currently required to be protected.
    • The retention of additional hollows and future hollow-bearing trees in areas where greater gliders are less likely to occur.
  • Greater glider trees must prioritise hollows (especially ones with evidence of use) where they exist.
  • Undertaking of a monitoring program to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of these new rules for greater gliders.
  • A new map that shows where these different greater glider areas occur.

Melbourne Design Week Kicks Off at Last Inner-City Timber Mill

Revival Projects is leading a new generation of construction professionals to reuse building materials and drive circularity in building supply chains. (Photo Credit: Revival Projects)
Revival Projects is leading a new generation of construction professionals to reuse building materials and drive circularity in building supply chains. (Photo Credit: Revival Projects)

Australia’s last remaining inner-city timber mill is the star of Melbourne Design Week. Designers and artists are now salvaging demolition waste and building materials and turning them into high-value exhibits. 

The push to re-use the world’s most sustainable materials, the ones that already exist, coincides with Melbourne’s Design Week, which kicked off at Revival Projects Collingwood hub, a zero-footprint hub for designers.

Founded by Robbie Neville, the recipient of the 2022 Melbourne Design Week award, the hub showcased Revival Projects’ 100 Circles, which involves 100 timber urns made out of several large cypress macrocarpa (or Monterey cypress) trees from Box Hill Cemetery. 

According to Mr Neville, “The roots (of the trees) were literally sharing the soil with the departed, and so we saw it as a sacred resource. I describe it as a physical embodiment of the intersection between the dissolution of life and new life.” Adding that “the golden wattle tree is the first tree that grows after bushfires; it’s naturally resilient to ash.”

“Hopefully, the initiative provides a significant process that makes it a little bit easier to rationalise and make sense of the grief and emotions you go through when you lose someone or something you love.”

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Installation view of ‘100 Circles’ presented by Revival Projects on display from 23 May – 26 May at Warehouse 2 Revival Projects in Melbourne Design Week 2024. (Photo Credit: Tim Carrafa)

The Collingwood timber mill, initially slated for demolition later this year, has been pushed for 12 months by Revival Projects. The developer is now working with Revival Projects to reuse materials as part of the site’s redevelopment.

Accordingly, Revival Projects intends to “salvage every piece of timber and every brick” and is currently collaborating with Grimshaw Design Practice and ANPLUS Developers to explore the best methods and applications for repurposing these materials directly into the new development happening on this site.

Revival Projects Zero Footprint Repurposing initiative.

In addition to the Collingwood hub, Revival Projects is also working with several developers across Melbourne, including the Melbourne Arts Precinct, to invest in urban tree recovery and re-use demolition materials.

As Existing Materials Consultants, Revival Projects is at the forefront of the push to re-use and recycle materials and straddles the project “from feasibility through to occupied use, facilitating everything involved in utilising your existing materials in your new design development.”

Robbie Neville, who in 2022 secured the Melbourne Design Week award for the Collingwood hub. Footage courtesy of @mercedesbenzau.

This includes its Zero Footprint Repurposing initiative, described by Tony Ellwood AM, the director of the National Gallery of Victoria: “Zero footprint repurposing is a project of ambitious scale with global importance…The project offers a unique platform for the design and construction industry to make a sustainable impact, which is a real catalyst for positive change.”

The objective of the Zero Footprint Repurposing initiative, according to Revival Projects, “is to inspire change by facilitating a sustainable approach in two fundamental areas of the design and construction industry:

  1. Revolutionise the perceived value of existing materials in the context of the new design and
  2. To make repurposing and re-use foundational in our industry, we are working to increase cohesion between key stakeholders at the right juncture. The value of existing materials needs to be identified, and salvaging missions need to be prioritised before concept, demolition, timing, and budgets are all finalised.

It plans to achieve this by: “Reducing carbon, waste, deforestation, transport, and consumption.”

The Melbourne Design Week will run until June 2nd, 2024. Now in its 17th year, it is sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, which announced that it has extended its support for the Awards for another three years until 2027.

  • Visit Melbourne Design Week’s website for information about Melbourne Design Week, including the full program.

Rise of the Mega Builder: How Housing Crisis Was Cooked Up

Over the past 70 years, housing is now far larger and more expensive, at a time when the nuclear household has reduced in size. (Photo Credit: Image generated by Wood Central using OpenAI)
Over the past 70 years, housing is now far larger and more expensive, at a time when the nuclear household has reduced in size. (Photo Credit: Image generated by Wood Central using OpenAI)

Australia has manufactured its own housing crisis, according to Roy Boydell, the founder and director of Ecohus, who said most developed countries are now in the full throes of a crisis, which will only get worse.

“This has not happened by chance; it is the inevitable outcome of how we provide housing in the modern free-market economy,” Mr Boydell wrote in a Fifth Estate Spinifex contribution yesterday. And despite high levels of political and media attention, “the problems are mostly misdiagnosed, which means the solutions are misguided, providing band-aid responses to individual problems but doing little if anything to correct the underlying issues of the system as a whole.”

“Try this: if Australians lived the same way they did in the 1950s (in houses of about 100 square metres), the current housing stock could accommodate an additional 30 million people, more than double the current population of 26.7 million.”

Roy Boydell, founder and director of Ecohus, in the Fifth Estate.
Housing is getting bigger and more expensive, while households are getting smaller and smaller. Footage courtesy of @stewarthicks.
The emergence of the housebuilding economy

As reported by Wood Central last year, global governments have “zero chance” of meeting ambitious housing targets without significant investment in modular and prefabrication construction – with the NSW government eying prefabrication and offsite construction to close its 377,000 housing gap.

And it is this housebuilding economy—with its complex mix of symptoms, including planning delays, supply chain constraints, and lack of affordability—that has “cooked up” a crisis.

According to Dallas Rogers, Associate Professor and Head of Urban Discipline at the University of Sydney, and Emma Power, Associate Professor at Western Sydney University, the key problem is the financialization of the housing industry.

“The financialisation of housing has been central to wealth creation in Australian households since at least the Second World War. Today, it underwrites the Bank of Mum and Dad, amateur property investors as landlords, asset-based welfare, and foreign real estate investment.”

The end result is that small and medium-sized builders (or SMEs) have been flushed out of the market and replaced by large corporate housebuilders—many of whom now also act as “land developers” and “speculators.” Indeed, according to the Housing Insitute of Australia (HIA), the top 20 housebuilders in Australia now build 25% of all new houses—many targeting investment rather than owner-occupier stock.

Wielding undue power over land, design, and material selection, major construction companies and property developers now manipulate supply chains to favour their business models rather than the good of the housing market.

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In November, Wood Central exclusively revealed that 5 of Australia’s largest greenfield housebuilding companies were using both timber and steel-based framing to build thousands of owner-occupier and investment-grade assets every year.

“For housebuilding, this applies to the whole development process: the preference for larger sites and standardised housing types, contracting arrangements in the supply chain, the collateral to administer planning approvals and arrange finance,” Mr Boydell said, adding that “smaller builders are increasingly at a disadvantage, unable to compete in the mass market at sufficient scale to challenge that market dominance.”

The free market now wields total control over land supply and development

This also influences land supply, with the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) reporting that more than 98% of the housing stock is now built by private developers – compared to 80% in the 1950s.

With near total control over housing stock, private developers are now practising “land banking,” where builders and developers stagger the release of land to limit supply and maximise profits.

Indeed, a report published by Prosper in 2022 found that Australian developers now acted like oligopolists, deliberately limiting the release of lots to the market to maximise their profits—costing home buyers more than $5.9 billion nationwide.

“Our report shows that despite there being over 110,000 approved sites, only 26,000 sites, or less than a quarter, had been sold over the past decade. Essentially, the slower the sales, the more developers make.”

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“If developers continue to control prices like this, we could concrete over the entire nation and still not make a dent in affordable housing. First-home buyers have been lured into Master Plan Communities under the false premise that supply is the key to their dreams,” it said.

Then, there is government withdrawal from public housing.

“The large-scale withdrawal of government from providing public housing has exacerbated this market concentration,” Mr Boydell said – with the AHURI reporting that the proportion of public housing has declined from 4.9% of the total stock in 1981 to 3.8% over the past four decades.

Last year, Four Corners tackled Australia’s broken building industry. Footage courtesy of @ABCNewsIndepth.

Even when it is spent, the government prefers to trust “tier 1” contractors with major public housing projects—who act as “contract managers”—pushing as much work onto subcontractors and paying them as late as possible to “de-risk” the build.

According to Stuart Green, a professor of construction management at the University of Reading, the flaw is that contractors now adopt a strategy of “structural flexibility,” which Professor Green defined as “the ability to expand and contract painlessly in accordance with fluctuations in demand.”

Speaking to the 21CC podcast, Professor Green blamed the UK government’s embrace of laissez-faire economic policy, which encouraged contractors to begin shedding as many overhead costs as possible, including training, direct employment, and investing in productivity, all while pushing risk down to their supply chains.

“The reality is that many contractors have progressively, over the course of the last four decades, removed themselves from taking responsibility for the physical task of construction,” said Professor Green, a professor of construction management at the University of Reading for 21 years, and head of its School of the Built Environment between 2010 and 2017.

The crisis is the result of free market economics and government disengagement.

The conclusion is stark: the current housing crisis is inevitable due to modern free market economics and government disengagement from the housing system.

To address this, Boydel wants to rethink the housing system, which will include:

  • Re-building a role for small housebuilding enterprises in the market
  • Re-establishing the role of government in providing public housing

To learn more about the role that material-lead supply chains can play in addressing the housing shortage, visit Wood Central’s special feature on prefabrication and offsite construction.